The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety fired a 27-year employee after determining that he had accepted bribes, making him the third person at the agency to lose his job as a result of a major corruption probe, officials said Wednesday.
Albert Acosta, 54, was fired Friday, department spokesman David Lara said in a statement. He worked as a building mechanical inspector in the department's Van Nuys office, where he earned more than $83,000 annually.
Lara said officials discovered that Acosta had solicited funds from contractors while on duty but would not provide additional details.
The internal city investigation that led to the dismissal coincides with an FBI probe that began last summer. Hugo Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock and Raoul Germain, 60 of Altadena pleaded guilty to bribery charges and were fired.
In addition to those three employees, the department placed two other workers on leave last month as part of its internal probe. Samuel In, a code enforcement inspector in the department's Koreatown office, was placed on leave on May 4 and retired two days later, according to a memo sent by Robert "Bud" Ovrom, the agency's top executive.
Frank Rojas, who worked in the department's West Los Angeles office, was placed on leave at the same time as In. He left his job on June 16. Ovrom would not provide any details on Rojas, saying he did not want to discuss personnel issues or "jeopardize an ongoing investigation."
Rojas did not respond to three requests for comment. Acosta, who lives in Sylmar, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a memo to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that was obtained by The Times, Ovrom said the FBI and department investigations have extended to agency supervisors.
The FBI launched a sting operation in August, with an undercover agent posing as a contractor. As part of that operation, one confidential informant told the FBI that bribes were "systemic" at the building department and described giving cash, building materials and even a vacation in exchange for city approvals, according to affidavits filed by federal investigators.
Six months later, city building officials received an anonymous complaint about bribes at 52 construction sites, all of them in South Los Angeles. That complaint prompted the city to begin its internal review. In April, a federal grand jury sent a subpoena to the Department of Building and Safety demanding records on 12 employees, including Gonzalez, Germain and Acosta.
Councilman Dennis Zine called Wednesday for Ovrom to appear before the council's audits committee next week to explain what is being done to improve oversight within the department and to eradicate corruption. "We have no idea how widespread it is," he said.